Request for Information (RFI): Challenges and Opportunities in Extracellular RNA Communication

Notice Number: NOT-RM-17-025

Key Dates
Release Date:   May 19, 2017

Related Announcements

Issued by
Office of Strategic Coordination (Common Fund)


The purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to solicit feedback from the community on the current scientific challenges, opportunities, and tool/technology needs in the research area of extracellular RNA (exRNA) communication, with the ultimate goal of accelerating our understanding of the roles of exRNA communication in human health, development and disease.


RNA is now known to be exported from cells and play a role in newly discovered mechanisms of cell-to-cell communication. The Common Fund’s Extracellular RNA Communication program aims to discover fundamental biological principles about the mechanisms of exRNA generation, secretion, and transport; to identify and develop a catalogue of exRNA in normal human body fluids; and to investigate the potential for using exRNAs as therapeutic molecules or biomarkers of disease.  Significant progress has been made in this area during the past few years of this program’s existence and we encourage respondents to visit these websites to determine whether needed resources are already in place: ( and

Common Fund programs must meet five overarching criteria. Programs must be:

  • Transformative: Must have high potential to dramatically affect biomedical and/or behavioral research over the next decade
  • Catalytic: Must achieve a defined set of high impact goals within a defined period of time
  • Synergistic: Outcomes must synergistically promote and advance individual missions of NIH ICs to benefit health
  • Cross-cutting: Program areas must cut across missions of multiple NIH ICs, be relevant to multiple diseases or conditions, and be sufficiently complex to require a coordinated, trans-NIH approach
  • Unique: Must be something no other entity is likely or able to do

Please keep these criteria in mind as you consider the information request below.

Information Requested

Your comments may include but are not limited to the following areas:
1. Scientific Gaps and Challenges. Chief challenges, gaps or limitations in our functional understanding of the role of exRNA communication in health and disease.

2. Tools and Technologies. Tools or technologies which are most critical for improving our ability to track, monitor, manipulate, or predict the presence of exRNA.

3. Scientific Opportunities. Effects of recent discoveries or advances that created any special opportunities for transformative advances in the exRNA communication field.

4. Extracellular RNA Classes and Model Systems. Particular classes of exRNAs that should be more fully characterized for functional relevance. Model systems that have particular or underappreciated utility in understanding the functions of exRNAs in human health and disease.

5. Mechanisms Regulating exRNA Trafficking.  Proteins, RNAs, RNA modifications or other entities involved in the regulation of exRNA trafficking in vesicles and RNA/protein complexes.

6. Biological and Disease Processes. Intersections between exRNA biology and other specific biological processes or diseases that should be a high priority for future investigations.

How to Submit a Response

To be considered, responses should be emailed to by June 15, 2017

Responses to this RFI are voluntary. Any personal identifiers (e.g., names, addresses, e-mail addresses, etc.) will be removed when responses are compiled. Only the de-identified comments will be used. Proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should not be included in your response. The Government reserves the right to use any non-proprietary technical information in any resultant solicitation(s). Respondents will not receive individualized feedback concerning their responses.

This RFI is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and/or the NIH Common Fund. The NIH does not intend to make any awards based on responses to this RFI or to otherwise pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government's use of such information.


Please direct all inquiries to:

T. Kevin Howcroft, Ph.D.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Telephone: 240-276-6229

John Satterlee, Ph.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Telephone: 301-435-1020    

Danilo A. Tagle, Ph.D.
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)
Telephone: 301-594-8064